“The best way to pay tribute to Bonifacio is to carry on with his struggle for national independence and genuine democracy. Our protests this Nov. 30 form part of that struggle.” – KMU
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Filipinos celebrate this Nov 30 the 149th birthday of the man they call as the great plebian, Andres Bonifacio. But unlike in usual government-sponsored celebrations marked by a one-time laying of wreath, some short speeches in hurried programs, token souvenirs to commemorate the hero, progressive peoples’ organizations nationwide prepared for a simultaneous whole day of mass actions. In fact, they were also the most visible in heralding Bonifacio’s 150th by next year.
“The best way to pay tribute to Bonifacio is to carry on with his struggle for national independence and genuine democracy. Our protests this Nov. 30 form part of that struggle,” said Roger Soluta, KMU secretary-general.
The labor center said the ideals for which Bonifacio had fought and died for are “yet to be achieved by Filipino workers and the people, as their realization are being hindered by the continuing dominance of US imperialism over the country and the Aquino government’s puppetry.”
Bonifacio organized and led the Katipunan (Kataas-taasang Kagalang-galangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan) more than a century ago. It was the first armed revolutionary movement that consciously fought to end foreign domination of Filipinos. The Katipunero’s revolt against Spanish colonialism succeeded and resulted in the founding of the Philippine republic.
But the young republic was soon engaged in a bloody, brutal war with a new imperialist power at the time, the United States. In this war, a large part of the Filipino population reportedly died as they tried to continue what the Katipuneros started and to defend their new republic. History books record how that war formally ended with the new colonizers ruling the country, while training and rewarding some Filipino elite to rule based on their interests.
By that time, Bonifacio had been murdered by forces from a section of this Filipino elite. Still, his aspirations for freedom from foreign domination and prosperity for Filipinos continue to gain adherents.
But even before the US-trained elite leaders formally took the reins in what most progressive groups derisively call as “a US puppet government,” Filipino revolutionaries continuing where Bonifacio left off had begun to be called names. In the 1910’s onwards they were called as bandits; in the 1950s onwards they were branded as communists; in the 1990s up to now they are “terrorists.”
To honor Bonifacio is to continue his struggle
“Bonifacio would not be pleased by the dumping of US troops’ toxic wastes in Philippine seas and by the expansion of US military presence in the country. He would definitely be angered by the Aquino government’s pro-imperialist and pro-elite policies,” Soluta of KMU said.
The labor center said Bonifacio would have detested the impoverished state of the country’s workers and farmers, and he would have decried the continuing concentration of lands in the hands of a few.
They blame the Aquino government’s flat refusal to increase daily wages nationwide by P125 ($2.98), and its imposition of wage cuts via its newly introduced two-tier wage system, on this government’s subservience to “dictates of foreign and local big capitalists.” In doing this, the Aquino government, like its predecessors, is squeezing Bonifacio’s fellow workers “to boost the profits of big capitalists,” the KMU said.
International surveys reveal that compared to other countries, workers in the Philippines are some of the lowest paid.
In the various programs held to remember Bonifacio, different union leaders slammed the combined trend of imposing a wage freeze for some and wage cuts for others among the working people. Calling President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III as a “cheap labor president,” they brought many placards and big streamers with their calls for wage hikes, as well as an end to contractualization which pulls down wages.
“Bonifacio fought for land reform, for the distribution of the friars’ lands among the farmers. He would definitely be revolted by the refusal of a haciendero president to implement a genuine land reform program and his collusion with big landlords who are grabbing farmers’ and national minorities’ lands,” Soluta said.
In Metro Manila, thousands of workers, professionals, students, women, migrant workers, urban poor and peasants, from various labor groups and other sectoral organizations, gathered at Liwasang Bonifacio in the morning, marched to the US Embassy via Kalaw Ave. after lunch, but they were blocked by the police and a fire truck, before they proceeded to Mendiola to conduct their main program.
They burned at least three United States flags, with the accusation “US Imperialist, No.1 Terorrist” emblazoned on it, plus one shirt with the US flag printed on it, used to be worn by Renato Reyes, secretary-general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan.
In the long marches of protesters from the Liwasang Bonifacio to the US embassy, and later to Mendiola (now Chino Roces Bridge), they brought an effigy of a militarily-armed Aquino, shielding a can of imported toxic waste behind him courtesy of US Bases, while dancing Gangnam-style. Aquino’s effigy was burned as soon as the marchers reached Mendiola.
KMU regional chapters in Cordillera, Southern Tagalog, Bicol, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Panay, Cagayan de Oro, Caraga and Southern Mindanao regions also held various protest actions in their cities and communities on Nov 30.
“While the Aquino government continues to boast about so-called economic growth, our protests will show that hunger, poverty and unemployment have become unbearable. Our Nov. 30 protest is just a start, as we vow to hold bigger protests in the coming months,” Soluta said.
Aside from KMU, other groups such as drivers and operators from Piston, health workers, youth and students, women, migrant worker, the urban poor launched simultaneous mass actions from their communities in the morning, before proceeding to join the others at Liwasang Bonifacio by lunch of Nov. 30. Most urged the others and the public to become like modern-day Andres Bonifacio.